UK: Online Advertising And Website Sales Copy

Last Updated: 18 November 2010
Article by Jill Benbow

So you want to start advertising your goods or services to increase sales. There is no question that the web is the fastest growing medium and lets you reach a very targeted audience. It also allows you to monitor the success of your advert. There has been a lot written about how to advertise and how to use pay per click, but what should you actually say (and not say!) in your advert?

Here are some simple rules to help you keep the right side of the law when writing your own website copy.

What should I say about my business?

You do not have a free rein in relation to the content or arrangement of your own websites. Certain details concerning the business must be provided on the site in an easily accessible manner. You must specify your business's trading name and the name of any company it trades through, the names of the directors (or a statement that such names are available for inspection at your registered office), the address of your registered office and your company registration and VAT numbers. You must also make it clear where you can be contacted, by phone (legally you do not have to give a phone number, but can you afford not to?), email, fax etc. and a correspondence address should also be specified if it's different to that of your registered office. It is a criminal offence to miss out these basic details.

What should I say about my goods or services?

The Trade Description Act will apply to what you say on your website, just as it would to your paper adverts, as will the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (applies if you are selling to consumers). In general terms, traders must not make commercial communications to consumers which are:

  • actually misleading (by act or omission);
  • aggressive, i.e., by suggesting that if you do not take this offer up NOW, something terrible is going to happen;
  • accurate; it may well be the best product in its class, but to say so can lead to accusations that you have incorrectly described the product. One common way round this is to refer to survey results or an independent publication, e.g., 'eight out of ten people said it is the best product in its class', or 'according to "What Product Magazine", it is the best product in its class'. Try and stick to the facts, and steer clear of claims you cannot prove; and
  • complete; you must also give the consumer sufficient information about the product, to make an 'informed transactional decision', so that they know the delivery times and the life of the product, or whether they need to buy additional batteries for it. An omission can therefore be just as serious as an inaccurate description.

You will need to ensure that all of this information is either in one place, or can be read together, relatively easily, using links or references.

What promises can I make?

If a buyer of your product/service argues that a statement that appeared on your website which induced them to buy your product and the statement is subsequently found to be untrue, you're in trouble. Such statements are a representation by you about the product or service and they need to be accurate. Performance indicators often cause the biggest problem. Saying that something will work for ten times longer than its competitor, and then it only works for four times as long, leaves you open to a misrepresentation action and you may be held liable to compensate the buyer for the loss. If the information comes from the manufacturer, you can still be liable if you publish it on the website, because you have assumed responsibility for it by including it within your product's description. Although you would be able to reclaim your loss from the manufacturer, you may not want to have this problem. You might consider instead linking to the manufacturer's site or providing the information in a way that makes it very clear who is making the claim.

Can I offer guidance and advice?

If you recommend a way of using your product or service (e.g., give directions, installation instructions etc.) or a person who can install or repair that product, then you will have to stand behind that recommendation. You might therefore say that all your technicians exceed some specification of quality or training. If that is not correct, then you may be liable for any loss suffered by the consumer or buyer (though do note that claiming to have qualifications in this way is often less risky than claiming that the product will perform in a certain way).

What about 'special industries'?

There are a number of special industries that are subject to a higher level of restrictions in their advertising materials. These include such areas as financial services, and food and drink products, tobacco and alcohol. If you are dealing in these products or services you need to check what further restrictions apply.

Do I really have to comply with these requirements?

Yes! Trading Standards are very hot on compliance with the law and have the power to take down your website. Consumers and buyers are often clued up on their rights and won't stand for breaches of their rights. They may sue you and win or report you to Trading Standards. Cases of fraud or obtaining property by deception attract serious civil and criminal penalties, respectively. Lastly, and most importantly, in this day and age of rapid information transmission and so much choice, your reputation matters. It is no wonder that sellers through eBay choose to look after their buyers (on the whole) very well; they don't want buyers to shop elsewhere!

Disclaimers

All of the above can be quite daunting, especially if all you want to do is convey your message through your website in the way you think best. You may find using a disclaimer helpful in this type of situation. A properly-worded disclaimer makes it clear that anything you say on your website is not meant to form or be part of a contract between you and your customers, and that your customers should themselves evaluate the products and/or service you recommend. It isn't a perfect safety net (the courts will still look at whether you influence the customer's buying decision in a way you should not), but it does give you some contractual protection. It is not possible to offer a precedent disclaimer because, as a matter of law, there are some areas for which you cannot disclaim liability and, more importantly, what you disclaim needs to relate to what you say in the first place.

Questions

If you want help with what you say on your site, how you deal with your customers and any part of how you trade online, then do get in touch with us.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.